6 Ways to Combat Nerves at Your Next Audition

Sarah Horton's 6 tips for tackling bad nerves at your next audition...

For some, auditioning is just part of the daily routine of being an actor. But for others it’s the elephant in the room that we don’t want to address because addressing it would mean admitting that auditioning has become a fear, not a thrill. And that showcasing our skills and talents has become a chore that would gladly be avoided.

This was the case for me. After over 10 years of calling this my job, I began to slowly lose any nerve I ever had and dreaded going into the audition room. I was losing the love for a job that I considered to be my life and a huge part of my identity for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this negative space. That was until I sat and challenged myself on the subject I’d been avoiding for too long.

1. Find the real root cause

Is this the first audition you’ve managed to get in months? Do you feel like everything is riding on this one job, even if you’re not crazy about it? Are you worried about what your agent might think if it doesn’t go so well? These are all things we might have swirling around our heads and they are not helping us hold our nerve. But very often these are on the surface of why we are nervous and they’re not the true reason we are filled with despair. After I asked myself why I felt like this every time I needed to open my mouth and act or sing, I got this answer: “I didn’t trust what I would do in the room.”

Taking a moment to write down everything going on in your head can be really beneficial. Seeing those reasons on paper can give you a chance to really reflect on them and decide if it’s just fear talking. By doing this, it helped me realise I had no reason to doubt what I was going to do in the room.

I’d gone through 3 years of blood sweat and tears (ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we call a ‘musical theatre course’) to get to where I was, and I knew deep down I could do it. It was the doubt that was making me mess up.

2. Remember you’re not alone

The waiting room before going into an audition was one of the bits I dreaded the most. I would look around and see all these confident amazing women with gorgeous hair, makeup and clothes looking like they weren’t fazed at all, and there was me who couldn’t string a sentence together and could potentially cry at any minute. No matter how much of a pep talk, I or my long-suffering family would give me before going into the waiting room, it would be forgotten in the blink of an eye. But the truth is everyone’s nervous - they’ve just figured out a way to deal with it. A fellow actor friend of mine says he uses his humour to get him through and just looks at it as an opportunity to show off who he is without taking it too seriously. Some people say picturing people in their underwear helps you feel less intimidated, however that just makes me freak out more. I try remembering that deep down everyone’s faking it a little and imagining them as my friends makes me feel like we’re all in this together.

3. Draw on your uniqueness

In an industry where we are in casting brackets by height, hair colour and ethnicity, it can be easy to lose yourself. Remembering what you have to bring to the table, your uniqueness, your humour, your talent can bring you the inner strength and power that you’ve had all along. Writing lists of everything my friends and family love about me was a starting point. I was then able to remember what I like or, dare I say, love about myself.

4. Ask yourself: Is it serving you?

Is the way you think about yourself and your ability helping you? Is it helping you keep going to achieve your dreams or is it holding you back in a place of safety? If that way of thinking is making things harder and making you feel inadequate, then it’s not helping you flourish into the best you. It is in fact ourselves who impose these restrictions and limitations and it’s those things that hold us back the most.

Making a list or vocalising what you think you are “rubbish” or “not very good” at might help you see that it’s not the case at all and you already have all the talent and ability you need it’s just the self-belief that’s missing. I found with a little self-belief that I started to become a lot more excited about the future. I realised that the ‘not knowing’ is the best gift and the reason I started doing this job in the first place. Because, let’s face it, we didn’t become actors for the career stability.

5. Failure isn’t what you think

Understanding that failure is a matter of perspective can bring a whole new light to our experiences. Seeing failure as a learning opportunity and a way to grow and not this massive negative thing that looms over us can change our outlook in the audition room and in life.

We constantly face rejection as actors, and we are taught to pick ourselves up and try again. But we also see “rejection” as an incredibly negative thing. What if it could just be part of the journey to the next experience? Go back and think about past experiences that at the time you thought were big stinking failures and look what came out of them. I wouldn’t have been on the West End had I not got the job I thought I wanted. So, is failing such a terrible thing?

6. Take back your power

Asking myself these sometimes uncomfortable questions really helped open my eyes to what was going on with these overwhelming nerves. And let me tell you they got so bad I began crying in a lot of performing situations - which really wasn’t ideal! Understanding that I was the one who decided I needed to be on the West End in order to feel like “I’d made it”. It was me at the age of 10 that said I should be working in films by the age of 30. It sounds ridiculous to think I’ve been carrying around my 10-year-old expectations for all these years. Realising we are the only one holding ourselves back is actually kind of a relief. And believing in ourselves is the most empowering thing we can do. With that self-belief comes confidence and that’s everything we thought we didn’t have when stepping into the audition room.

The panel in the audition room want you to succeed but don’t forget the most important persons feelings in that room: yours. We need to remember how hard we’ve worked and how we do deserve to succeed - that doesn’t stop because of the outcome of the job. Believing in ourselves is something we are supposed to master when being an actor but for some of us it’s not always that easy. Taking the time to remember why you started doing what you’re doing and what amazing things you have to offer can help you on the journey and master those auditions, making them just another day in the life of an actor.

Sarah is an actor originally from Nottingham currently based in London. Most recently she was on the West End with the Tiger who came to Tea followed by a UK and international tour. After graduating MADD college she spent time as a famous mouse in Disneyland Paris. Sarah is passionate about mental health and spreading positivity and she does so over on her blog

Image credit: Alishia Love